Days 25, 26, 27 – Heidelberg Hide-Aways

Days 25, 26, 27 – Heidelberg Hide-Aways

My apologies for the long delay in posting this, but, better late than never, I suppose. Some of the details may be a little foggy, as a result.

Our trip from Munich to Heidelberg was rather uneventful, though it was delayed by approximately half an hour (so much for German punctuality). The end result was us running from the train station in Heidelberg to meet the student we were renting an apartment from.

We made it to the apartment a few minutes late, and were welcomed by Nikolas, who explained how the rental would work, and gave us a thorough explanation of what to see, do, and eat in Heidelberg. After he left, Cara and I took a walk through Old Town Heidelberg to get our bearings. We eyed a few of the landmarks and checked out a number of the stores.

One store in particular is the Knosel Chocolaterie, a store famous for their ‘Student’s Kisses’ chocolates. The store is still owned and operated by the Knosel family, whose chocolates were a hit as gifts from the male students of the University of Heidelberg to the various women in their lives.

Knosel Chocolaterie in Heidelberg, Germany.
Knosel Chocolaterie in Heidelberg, Germany.

It should be noted that Heidelberg is built around the university, which is the oldest in Germany, and is responsible for much of the city’s history. The university was founded at the bequest of a German king who decided that Germany needed a university to make progress in the sciences. It is home to many famous scientists and Nobel laureates, and was also the site at which Robert Bunsen invented the Bunsen burner. The university also has an interesting history through the last century as it was subject to a great deal of controversy and reform during the rise and fall of Nazi Germany.

The Old Bridge, with a view of Heidelberg Castle in the background.
The Old Bridge, with a view of Heidelberg Castle in the background.

After picking up some chocolate kisses in the Knosel shop, Cara and I wandered across the Old Bridge to the other side of the river, and sat down on the riverbank to read as we worked up an appetite for dinner. A short time later, we went back into Old Town and found a schnitzel restaurant called The Heidelberger Schnitzelhaus, that Nikolas had recommended to us. The place boasted over 100 kinds of schnitzel. For those of you who don’t know, schnitzel is basically pork that has been pounded flat, breaded, and then pan fried in butter to a crispy consistency. It is then traditionally topped with things to make it different. This place had over 100 different formulations to make your schnitzel something special. Mine was covered in bacon and onions in a creamy sauce, while Cara had a red wine sauce with mushrooms in it. Both were delicious and the meal was extremely filling.

We were tired from the day of travel, and all the walking, so we made our way back to the apartment and turned in for the night.

The next day was Cara’s birthday, and Cara had made a request to visit Heidelberg Castle, and do a hike up the Philosopher’s Walk (or Philosphenweg), which was a popular path frequented by philosophers and artists (including Goethe and Mark Twain).

The Fat Tower of Heidelberg Castle, destroyed when lightning ignited the gun powder stored within.
The Fat Tower of Heidelberg Castle, destroyed when lightning ignited the gun powder stored within.

We started with a trip to the castle, where we got an audio guide to narrate our exploration. The castle was once a dominating and imposing feature on the hill overlooking Heidelberg, and was in various states of use and operation as the residence of German kings, and a primary defensive bastion. Over the years, the castle fell into disuse, was ransacked, and destroyed by war and fire. More time had the castle being partially reclaimed by nature, which had the unintentional effect of making the ruin all the more romantic and striking. The stone walls and battlements crumbling over the centuries and crawling with vines made it a favourite place for both Goethe and Mark Twain as well. Inside the castle, which is better maintained, we visited the wine cellar, which contained the Great Wine Barrel. This barrel was used as a tithing vessel to which wine makers of the region delivered their taxes. It held over 223,000L of wine (of all kinds, so you can imagine it was not very good), and was the main source of drinking fluid for the castle. There is an old legend that the court jester, Perkeo, was a famous alcoholic (even receiving his name, Perkeo for responding to the question “More wine?” with “por que, non?” or, “why not?”) who died after being convinced to drink the castle’s water.

The 223,000L Great Barrel in the lower levels of the Heidelberg Castle.
The 223,000L Great Barrel in the lower levels of the Heidelberg Castle.

After the castle, we made our way across the river to the Philosphenweg. The path we took was much longer and actually led us to the top of a 300m mountain overlooking Heidelberg. The first thing we found was the ruin of St. Stephenskloster, which has a restored tower that we were allowed to climb to the top of, and which gave a great view of Heidelberg and it’s castle.

The view from the tower at St. Stephenskloster. You can see Old Town, the Old Bridge, and Heidelberg Castle.
The view from the tower at St. Stephenskloster. You can see Old Town and Heidelberg Castle.

The actual tower, which, clearly, has been restored.
The actual tower, which, clearly, has been restored.

We then continued on to find a Nazi amphitheatre, a chilling experience to say the least.

Looking down on the stage of the Nazi Amphitheatre. It is disturbing to imagine the place filled with supporters sporting swastikas.
Looking down on the stage of the Nazi Amphitheatre. It is disturbing to imagine the place filled with supporters sporting swastikas.

We then climbed to the very peak where we found St. Michaelskloster, which was an even larger abbey, with the rooms all labelled, and two towers, which we could climb to properly appreciate the ruins and the view.

The ruins of St. Michaelskloster. I imagine the central tree as being much smaller in year's past, when it would have been completely surrounded by stone walls that have since yielded to the test of time... even as the tree perseveres in the face of the same.
The ruins of St. Michaelskloster. I imagine the central tree as being much smaller in year’s past, when it would have been completely surrounded by stone walls that have since yielded to the test of time… even as the tree perseveres in the face of the same.

A long walk back down the mountain and through Old Town brought us back to the apartment for a well deserved shower. We then walked back into Old Town to enjoy some Thai food (which was good, but the service was extremely slow). We finished off the night with dessert at Cafe Knosel (just up the street from the chocolaterie), and then headed home after a long day of walking (over 25km).

Our last day in Heidelberg was a rainy one, and was spent doing a bit of souvenir shopping, and seeing some of the museums in Heidelberg. We visited the Heidelberg University Museum, the Karzer Student Prison (where students were incarcerated by the university for their many misdeeds and pranks; they were allowed to attend class while in prison, but otherwise were forced to remain in their cells).

A cell in the Karzer Student Prison. Students passed the time by graffitiing the walls. A favourite technique was to emulate the student's profile.
A cell in the Karzer Student Prison. Students passed the time by graffitiing the walls. A favourite technique was to emulate the student’s profile.

We relaxed in the afternoon with some reading, and found our way to a beer house and hotel recommended by Nikolas as a good place to eat. We shared a salad and Ox Topside (which is basically a boiled beef dish; good, but not spectacular), and I enjoyed one of my favourite beers of the whole trip (the Kulturbraueri Seasonal Brew… not sure what it was exactly, but it was delightfully hoppy, but also a full bodied amber ale. VERY GOOD). On our walk home, we picked up dessert at a shop. This dessert was a Schneeball (Snowball), which is basically pastry, rolled up into a ball, and covered with sugar, or other toppings. We got a cinnamon sugar one (gee, I wonder who chose that one… CARA) and took it home to eat with some fresh strawberries (which are way better in Germany than in NA). We were in for our longest train ride of the trip the next day, so we called it an early night and eagerly anticipated the trip to Berlin.

On the riverbank during the Golden Hour on our last night in Heidelberg.
On the riverbank during the Golden Hour on our last night in Heidelberg.
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